The latest chapter in Piquet's diverse racing career

There aren’t too many drivers who can boast CVs that include a Formula E title, wins in two of NASCAR’s three top-tier series and the US-based Global Rallycross series, let alone silverware in Formula 1.

The latest chapter in Piquet's diverse racing career

But the diverse career of Nelson Piquet Jr, who finished second to GP2 rival Lewis Hamilton in the 2008 German Grand Prix, has entered a new chapter as the Brazilian returns to GT racing in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America series with ANSA Motorsports.

The inaugural Formula E champion in 2014-15 has focused primarily on racing in his domestic Stock Car series (which despite the name has little in common with NASCAR and instead more closely resembles touring cars) since splitting with Jaguar’s FE squad during the 2018-19 season, and this year set up his own two-car team, with Sergio Jimenez as his team-mate.

It was 2018-19 Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy champion Jimenez, who raced for ANSA last year, that made the connection with team patron Alain Nadal and prompted Piquet to enter the single-make series for the Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo EVO with backing from Motorsport Games (NASDAQ:MSGM).

“It was a bit out of the blue,” says Piquet, whose most recent GT experience came with an International GT Open cameo in a BMW M6 GT3 at Spa in 2017. “I knew Alain, I had seen him before a long time ago because I used to live in Miami, so it was a good coincidence.

“I’m always open for a challenge, going out of my comfort zone has been always something that I’ve accepted and taken as an interesting challenge to learn and absorb more knowledge.

“I’m a big believer that the more you’re on track, the better you get – it doesn’t matter how much experience you have. Nowadays testing is not something that we do a lot, so for me it was a good chance to drive a bit more.”

Piquet readily accepts that he has had a learning curve to adapt to the Huracan, which in part explains his move away from sharing a car with Jimenez at the Austin season opener to his own machine for the recent Virginia International Raceway (VIR) double-header.

Piquet has taken on his latest challenge in one-make Lamborghini racing

Piquet has taken on his latest challenge in one-make Lamborghini racing

Photo by: Motorsport Images/Jamey Price

“There’s so little seat-time in the weekend,” he says, “and when you share it, it just becomes even harder.”

One of the series benchmarks is Richard Antinucci, a Lamborghini specialist with years of GT experience under his belt. Piquet has crossed paths with him before – in 2003, they finished third and fourth in the British Formula 3 championship – and says his F1 background is no advantage compared to drivers like Antinucci who are fully comfortable with both the “extremely quick” car and the challenging tracks.

“The tracks in America are a bit tricky,” he says. “VIR is the trickiest track I’ve driven up to now and to do half an hour practice then go to qualifying, you don’t really pick up a lot of things, especially when it’s a two-minute lap.

“The cars are fast, much quicker than Stock Car Brazil – the cars over there I would say are probably heavier, less power, no TC, no ABS whatsoever and over here you have all that, so you need to learn how to use the driving aids.

“We’re getting there. Still, Antinucci is a driver that has been driving [Lamborghinis] forever and these tracks, so he is quite a big step ahead of us. I remember we drove together in British F3, he was always one of the quick guys over there racing with Carlin back in the day.

“There are a lot of guys that didn’t make it to F1 who have a very good calibre, so you put them in something that they get used to and they get comfortable – like Antinucci in a Lamborghini – and he becomes a very tough guy to beat.

Piquet has resumed his rivalry with Antinucci from British Formula 3 in 2003

Piquet has resumed his rivalry with Antinucci from British Formula 3 in 2003

Photo by: Motorsport Images/Jamey Price

“Tracks in the States have strong characteristics; not a lot of runoff areas, quite bumpy, they use a lot of kerbs because the tracks are so narrow, and he knows it from the back of his hand.

“But it’s a challenge that I enjoy and I know I have to push myself to get there. It’s not impossible because he can do it, so that means other people can do it too. It’s just a question of getting miles and finding the limit of the track and the car.”

Piquet is still waiting for a first podium visit in Lamborghinis, having run out of fuel at Austin and been set back by a brake failure in qualifying at Virginia that meant he started from the back in both races. But he’s certainly not lowered his expectations as a result.

Asked about his goals for this year, Piquet says he is aiming “to try and win at least a race”.

“And to get comfortable with the car,” he adds, “if we do it next year again, to have a good chance of winning the championship.

“We’ve had reliability issues which took a bit of seat time which I needed, but in a few weeks’ time we’re in Watkins Glen, which I’m looking forward to.”

Despite the challenges, his move into one-make GT racing has been entirely worthwhile.

“I’ve been having a lot of fun,” he says.

Tricky nature of US circuits amplifies Piquet's learning curve

Tricky nature of US circuits amplifies Piquet's learning curve

Photo by: Motorsport Images/Jamey Price

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